Quick to assemble, Easy Cowboy Caviar is a crowd-pleasing, pot-luck and tailgate party favorite from Texas. It’s a great make-ahead, chunky bean and vegetable salad and dip that is perfect scooped up with crunchy tortilla chips. With beans, garlic, peppers, onions and greens (cilantro), it’s also as healthy as it is delicious. And because it contains black eyed peas, Easy Cowboy Caviar is the perfect recipe for the Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day.
Use Easy Cowboy Caviar as a dip with chips, as a side salad or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken.
Although I used canned black-eyed peas, black beans and corn in this "easy" version of Cowboy Caviar, if you have the time and the desire, create a richer, even more flavorful dish using dried beans cooked with aromatics and fresh corn off the cob. Either way, though, it's delicious and everyone loves it!
Ingredients for Easy Cowboy Caviar
- extra virgin olive oil
- white wine vinegar
- chili powder
- sea salt
- Roma tomatoes
- black-eyed peas
- black beans
- red bell pepper
- green bell pepper
- red onion
- cayenne (optional)
- tortilla chips (optional)
See recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for Easy Cowboy Caviar
Make the vinaigrette: whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sugar, chili powder and salt in a large bowl until well-blended and slightly thickened.
Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas, black beans and corn. Add to the vinaigrette in the bowl.
Chop red bell pepper, green bell pepper and red onion into ¼” dice. Mince the jalapeño. Add all veggies to the bowl and stir to combine and coat with vinaigrette. At this point, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, chop the cilantro, add to the bowl and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt as necessary and perhaps a bit of cayenne for extra heat. Serve the Easy Cowboy Caviar as a dip with tortilla chips, as a side salad or as a topping for simply grilled fish or chicken.
Hint: Remember this is a dip. So, make sure your veggies are diced small enough that you can easily dip a chip into the cowboy caviar and have all ingredients on that chip. Ideally, go for ¼" dice.
Variations for Easy Cowboy Caviar
Easy Cowboy Caviar is infinitely customizable. So, put your own spin on it based on what you have on hand.
- Avocado - stir in chopped avocado at the the same time as the cilantro, right before serving. Or slice some avocado and garnish the Cowboy Caviar in its serving dish.
- Spicy - I like to add ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for additional kick, especially if my jalapeño pepper is mild.
- Other add-ins - sliced black olives, chopped celery, chopped radishes, chopped jicama...what else do you like?
Store Easy Cowboy Caviar covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Use it as a dip with chips, as a side salad or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken.
These ingredients don't stand up well to freezing.
Top tip for Easy Cowboy Caviar
Drain the black-eyed peas, black beans and corn very well. That way, you won't dilute the flavor of the vinaigrette. Also, make sure you give the cowboy caviar a good stir right before serving, to coat all of the veggies with the delicious dressing.
Originally, Cowboy Caviar was a black-eyed pea salad with onions, pickled in a vinegar-based dressing. Then, over the years, creative cooks added other beans, like black beans along with colorful fresh vegetables, such as bell peppers, tomatoes and corn. And, Tex-Mex flavorings, such as chili powder, cumin and jalapeño amp up the flavors.
Helen Corbitt, a New York transplant to Texas, created cowboy caviar in the 1950s. Helen first served a dish called “Pickled Black-Eyed Peas” at a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Houston Country Club. That dish was a simple black-eyed pea salad marinated with onions in a vinaigrette. Everyone loved it and Helen continued to serve it at venues throughout Texas. It was later humourously called “Texas Caviar,” because of its vague resemblance to “real” caviar, the expensive delicacy of cured fish roe. The name stuck and other cooks gave the dish the name “Cowboy Caviar.” Over time, other ingredients, such as bell peppers, tomatoes and corn and Tex-Mex flavors like chili powder were added to Cowboy Caviar as cooks across the South put their own signatures on it.
Cowboy Caviar contains 3 of the 6 so-called G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, Seeds), foods that, according to reknowned nutrition expert, Dr. Mark Fuhrman, can help prevent cancer and support immune function: Greens (cilantro), Beans (black beans) as well as Onions (and Garlic). Researchers have determined that cilantro can help people maintain a healthy body weight and also help reduce heavy metals in the body. Black beans may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and may also help people with high blood pressure. And adding onions and garlic to your diet can help prevent cancer and improve heart health.
Other Appetizers from The Portion Queen
Looking for other appetizers or hors d'oeuvres for your next party? Mushroom Tartlets are easy and elegant. Or to feed a crowd, go with an Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Tart. And for an Asian-themed party, put Best Spicy Tuna Tartare with Horseradish Aioli on individual serving spoons.
Easy Cowboy Caviar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup good quality white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, and more to taste
- ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 lb Roma (plum) tomatoes
- 1 can black-eyed peas, 15 oz
- 1 can black beans 15 oz
- 1 can sweet yellow corn 15 oz
- ½ red bell pepper, large
- ½ green bell pepper, large
- ½ red onion, medium
- 1 jalapeño
- 1 cup cilantro
- tortilla chips, optional, for serving
- Make the vinaigrette: whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sugar, chili powder and salt in a large bowl until well-blended and slightly thickened.
- Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas, black beans and corn. Add to the vinaigrette in the bowl.
- Chop red bell pepper, green bell pepper and red onion into ¼” dice. Mince the jalapeño. Add all veggies to the bowl and stir to combine and coat with vinaigrette. At this point, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, chop the cilantro, add to the bowl and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt as necessary and perhaps a bit of cayenne for extra heat. Serve the Cowboy Caviar as a dip with tortilla chips, as a side salad or as a topping for simply grilled fish or chicken.